We may feel at times that we’re not studying in the way that we’re supposed to. This can be frustrating, especially when we’ve been out of education for a while and are already worried about being able to get back into the swing of things. However, it’s important to remember that there are different types of learning styles and techniques and some will suit you better than others.
When people identify the learning style that suits them best, they tend to stick with it. However, research has shown that the most effective study comes from blending different learning styles together. This is because you are absorbing information in a variety of formats and this greatly increases your understanding of a subject.
First thing first, you need to identify what your core learning style is before moving on to the others to see how you can blend your learning. In this article, you’ll find out what your best learning style is and others you should be throwing into the mix.
Learning styles include:
- Visual Learning
- Aural Learning
- Verbal Learning
- Physical Learning
- Logical Learning
- Social Learning
- Solitary Learning
1) Visual learner
Visual learning involves using pictures, images, graphs, flowcharts, mind maps, charts, diagrams, and colours to help you learn better. Using flashcards, writing down ideas or main points and words, colour coding items and drawing pictures which help explain the concepts that you are learning are all techniques used by visual learners.
Visual learning can be a great way to help you visualize links between systems, information and can greatly improve your ability to learn and retain information. When you combine visual and verbal learning styles, it enhances your memory and ability to recall information later.
Visual learners do well when they use symbols, boxes, charts and colours in their notes. This helps bring their attention to key concepts or new ideas. PowerPoint slides, video and websites provide visual information which can prove extremely useful when studying and developing an understanding for a new topic. Using different coloured highlighters, index cards, flashcards, folders, paper or tabs to create a visual system for grouping topics.
When studying your notes it’s important to try to create an image or picture in your mind for the concept you are trying to learn. Mind mapping is a great way to do this. Using bullet points and timelines are other great ways to help visual learners study.
Are you a visual learner?
If you find that you learn better by reading and looking at pictures, diagrams and graphs etc. then chances are you’re a visual learner. This means you like to see what you are learning and understand things by seeing them. Visual learners also tend to have an eye for size and space.
- Do you have a good sense of direction?
- Do you like using colour when studying your notes?
- Do you like doodling when you’re taking notes?
- Do you like to categorise your notes according to colour?
- Do you draw circles around key information in your notes?
- Do you like drawing arrows in your notes to show that concepts are related etc.?
As a visual learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
- “Wait, let me show you!”
- “I can picture that.”
- “I remember faces, not names.”
- “It doesn’t look that way to me.”
- “Try looking at it this way.”
2) Aural or Auditory Learner
Aural learning involves using sound and music. Students who are auditory learners develop their understanding and memory by hearing and listening and generally enjoy oral reports. The thoughts of speaking out during class does not phase auditory learners, who also find it easier to remember peoples names. They prefer to listen to information or instructions rather than having to read them.
When studying or learning a new subject, aural learners benefit from reading out loud, whether it is stories, study material, or just instructions. Recording classes and listening to them again can be a very effective learning method for aural learning. Watching videos or audiotapes of what the student is learning will also prove beneficial.
Another good study technique would be to close your eyes and say the facts out loud, repeating them a few times, or recording yourself reading your study notes once you have written them down. Some aural learners find that they do well when they relate or associate what they are learning with a particular song. They also study much better while listening to music in the background as they learn.
Are you an auditory learner?
If you find it easier to understand spoken instructions rather than reading a textbook, or find that you learn best by asking the teacher questions during class, aural learning techniques will benefit you.
- Do you repeat information silently to yourself?
- Do you find that you work in quiet areas in order to minimize hearing distractions such as a TV?
- To you talk through diagrams with yourself when learning?
- Do you read questions out loud to yourself?
As an aural learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
- “That sounds like a plan.”
- “Sounds good to me”
- “That’s not how I heard it!”
- “I hear you.”
- “That’s music to my ears.”
3) Verbal Learner
Verbal learning involves using words, phrases, and dialogue. This can be in writing and/or speech. Those who are verbal learners generally find it easier to express themselves both verbally and in writing. They tend to enjoy verbal activities, literary interpretation, verbal debates and storytelling.
When trying to learn, verbal learners will find it easier to understand a new topic by talking it through or reading their notes out loud. Rhyming, creating acronyms, or jingles can be a great way to enhance your memory of a key concept or help organize content for memorizing.
Repeating notes audibly and teaching or discussing with others what they have learnt, is another way students can learn more efficiently. By speaking aloud, especially after putting the information or key concept into your own words, you are reinforcing what you’ve studied and retained more information.
Techniques that are commonly used by verbal learners are reciting the information out loud, writing your own notes of the information and highlighting the key points in the textbook. Verbal learners also do well in discussion groups and by teaching others.
Journaling and diary keeping, interviews, class discussions, typing, research and tape recording, are common activities used by verbal learners. Verbal learners do well when they can hear the words and visualise them.
Are you a verbal learner?
Reading and writing are two big areas with verbal learners. Having a passion for words, writing, tongue twisters, rhymes etc. and the ability to pick up phrases easily, may indicate that this learning style is for you.
- Can you hear the words or phrases as you read silently?
- Do you like word games?
- Do you enjoy finding new words?
- Are you good with spellings?
- Do you enjoy acting?
- Is your vocabulary better than others?
- Do you like to learn new words?
- Do you love to read and write?
- Do you like to learn new languages?
As a verbal learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
- “Write it down”
- “Put it in writing”
- “We need to talk”
- “In other words…”
- “Do I need to spell it out?”
4) Physical or Tactile Learner
Physical learning involves using your body and sense of touch to learn. Physical learners learn by doing, touching, moving, building etc. and are often described as a ‘hands-on” learner. While studying, these learners can often be seen swinging on the chair, tapping their foot, eating chewing gum, fingerspelling, or holding something as they study.
Concentration can be lost by the physical learner if there is no external movement, and as a result, they may engage in note-taking during a lecture or when listening in class, for the sake of moving their hands.
Tactile learners like to observe and record information.
Physical learners will benefit greatly from acting out stories, completing projects and using coloured highlighters to emphasize important points. Drawing diagrams or making models of the information will help a physical learner learn best. They will also learn by writing out facts and key points or spelling words repeatedly. Flashcards are often used by the physical learner to help them revises for exams and break down the topic.
Taking frequent short breaks will be important for you if you have a physical learning style as well as having something to do with your hands such as a stress ball or even holding a pen. Underlying or taking notes form a large part of your studying routine.
Chewing gum or eating candy as you learn might actually help you to retain more information. This will also be improved if you write your own notes after reading a textbook or document. You also benefit from breaking down what you’re learning into blocks or steps rather than dealing with it as a whole.
Are you a physical learner?
If you find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time and find that you have to take breaks frequently during your study period, the chances are you’re a physical learner. This type of learner tends to use their hands while speaking, likes to move around while studying, and finds it easier to remember things once they have been done.
- Do you find that you are very coordinated and do well in areas such as physical education?
- Do you like to move around when learning?
- Do you think better when you’re out for a walk?
- When you’re in class do you feel the need to get up and move around?
- Do you find it hard to sit still for long periods of time before becoming distracted?
- Do you find that you have to take notes during your lecture to keep your mind busy?
- Do you find you think more clearly while you exercise?
As a physical learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
- “This feels right.”
- “I follow you”
- “Keep in touch.”
- “My gut instinct is…”
- “Get a grip!”
5) Logical Learners
Problem-solving is one of the key areas of logical, or mathematical, learning. A logical learner is very skilled at identifying and seeing the interconnectedness between systems and a series of parts. They are very good at numbers, solving problems, abstract visual information and reasoning. They also have the ability to analyse cause and effect relationships.
Logical learners tend to focus on factual information and reasoning that gave rise to a certain conclusion. They often adopt a scientific approach to thinking, are very good in the areas of statistics and math, and can recognise patterns without major difficulty. Creating agendas and to-do lists are great activities for logical learning, which can be used to rank tasks in order of priority.
Activities or study techniques involving visual material, statistical or hands-on work, will aid logical learners greatly, as will computers and analytical activities. Structured goal-orientated activities suit, logical learners, better than creative activities. When trying to study, logical learners often look at the topic or information as a formula or even a puzzle.
Logical learners often learn by asking a lot of questions because understanding the topic is important. They don’t want to just learn the information so that they can regurgitate it in the exam. However, it is important not to allow yourself to become too stressed or down if you come across a concept that takes longer for you to understand or you are having difficulty developing an understanding for it. For exam purposes, memorising information is important and appropriate.
People that like to take a logical approach to learning, find it useful to create an outline for the subject, so they can track their learning in a logical sequence.
Are you a logical learner?
Logical learners want to understand the reasons for learning and understand the whole picture. They are natural thinkers who learn by classifying, categorising and thinking abstractly about patterns, relationships, and numbers.
- Do you get satisfaction from trying to solve complex question and problems?
- Do you like setting financial budgets?
- When others see confusion, do you see connections between what may appear to others as meaningless content?
- Do you like creating to-do lists?
- Do you like checking off to-do lists?
- Can you do moderately complex calculations in your head?
- Do you find that you often reflect on the problem-solving process?
- Do you find crosswords and word puzzles fun?
As a logical learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
“That makes sense.”
“The facts speak for themselves.”
“I need a reason.”
“Let me check that off my list.”
6) Social or Interpersonal Learner
Social learners communicate very well with others. This includes verbal and nonverbal communication. They tend to have a good understanding of other people’s points of view, motives and are sensitive to their feelings as well as being good listeners.
Social learners often prefer to learn in groups rather than on their own and like generating ideas by brainstorming with others. Their learning is enhanced when they relate what they’re learning to the people that surround them. Social learners often enjoy being part of a drama or speech group and participating in debates.
Social learners will benefit greatly from working and studying in groups. This helps them develop a better understanding of what they are learning. They can learn by both listening to others, as well as speaking their thoughts and understanding of a topic. Giving and receiving feedback is fundamental to their learning.
Role-playing is another great technique that can be used to enhance the learning of a social learner, as well as participating in group discussions. While learning in a group can be a great way to learn, it is important to ensure that when studying or participating in group discussion that it does not go off-topic.
Group-based learning can provide great benefits in terms of accountability and idea generation, however it also provides fertile grounds for distraction. It is essential that when learning as part of a group that focus is maintained. Find a way to ensure that the topic being discussed doesn’t go off course and where it does, try to bring it back on track as quickly as possible.
If you like taking part in group sports such as soccer, basketball and hockey for example, and prefer social activities than doing things on your own, you may be a social learner.
- Do you often get referred to as a peoples person or as a good communicator?
- Do you enjoy teaching others?
- Do you thrive in group situations and find that people often come to you for advice?
- Do you enjoy mentoring and helping other people?
- Do you have strong communication skills and pick up on other people’s body language quite easily.
- Do you like sharing your thoughts and opinions?
- Do you find it better to talk through your problems with other people?
As a Social learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
- “What do you think?”
- “Let’s figure this out”
- “What way would you approach this?”
- “Let’s get everyone’s point of view first.”
7) Solitary Learning Style or Intrapersonal Learner
Solitary learners tend to be more independent and introspective, spending a lot of time on their own, enjoying their own company. They tend to think a lot, especially with regards to what they are learning. Solitary learners have a good understanding of their limits and abilities. They spend much of their time in peaceful surroundings so they can properly analyse their thought process.
While solitary learners prefer to study on their own because it feels natural to them, they do enjoy socialising with others and their friends when they don’t need to focus and be productive.
If you’re a solitary learner it is important that you find somewhere you can study that is comfortable and free from distractions. Studying alone paves the way for complete focus, provided you have eliminated all other possible distractions, it is important that you do not procrastinate. Studying on your own has the disadvantage of offering no accountability. To allow for some accountability you should monitor your progress and discuss with friends how you are doing.
This will also help to keep you motivated and make sure that you are on track with your course work. It will also give you the opportunity to discuss any topics that you may be having difficulty with, or do not clearly understand. One of the problems of learning on your own is that when you get stuck on something you do not understand, there is a possibility that you could spend too long trying to figure it out.
Sometimes it is better to write the question down, or highlight the concept you need help with, and go ask a friend. You can do this by simply giving them a call, or if your course provider has a group or discussion board available you could post your question there. You could wait till you next meet your friend or are in the class and ask your teacher. By doing this you do not waste valuable time trying to solve the problem yourself and you can continue on with your learning.
Study schedules and journals can be a great way to keep yourself on track when you prefer learning on your own.
Are you a solitary learner?
If you enjoy spending time alone, keeping a journal and engaging in self-analysis to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, you may be a solitary learner.
- Do you like solving problems on your own somewhere quiet so that you can analyse all possible solutions and alternatives.
- Do you like to work for yourself?
- Do you set goals for yourself and then reflect on how you did?
- Do you like working by yourself so that you will not get distracted by others?
- Do you prefer learning on your own so that you can think clearly?
- Are you very aware of your thoughts and feelings?
- Do you enjoy finding similarities between the information you have already learnt and new information?
- Do you find that you are more productive on your own?
- Do you find that you focus better when working alone?
As a Solitary learner, you might notice yourself saying the following phrases regularly:
“I need some ‘me’ time.”
“Let me think this through.”
“I need silence to concentrate.”
“Let me go away and think about it a while.”
7 Different Types of Learning Styles Infographic